MTSU gives national social worker market big boost

MTSU gives national social worker market big boost

MTSU’s partnerships with two other universities are paying off by providing the labor market with even more highly qualified social workers.

The Council on Social Work Education issued initial accreditation for the Mid-TN Collaborative Master of Social Work Program administered by MTSU, Tennessee State University and Austin Peay State University on June 13.

The accreditation is retroactive to 2009 to cover those students who have already begun their degree track.

Dr. Rebecca Smith

Dr. Rebecca Smith, chair of the MTSU Department of Social Work, says the three-institution collaboration for a master’s degree in social work is the first of its kind in the nation.

“The sharing of resources will help to provide education to a wider range and network of students,” Smith said.

It comes at a time when MTSU has the largest undergraduate bachelor’s degree program for social work in the state, and people are clamoring to get in.

“The master’s degree program is designed for the working professional,” said Smith. “All classes are either at night or online.”

Vicki Williams, director of the Social Work Program at Tennessee State University, added that “the demand for advanced generalist social workers within the U.S. labor force is greater than ever with … recent immigration, changes in the economic system and implementation of the Patient and Affordable Health Care Act.”

Both the bachelor’s and master’s degrees require internships in which the student is supervised by a social worker and monitored by a social work faculty member.

“This field work experience occurs in an agency setting, allowing students to combine classroom learning with real-world experience under the supervision of agency personnel and mentored by faculty,” Smith said.

MTSU alumna Yvette White, who obtained her master’s degree in May 2013, is the beneficiary of three of those internships.

Born and reared in Philadelphia, White said she saw many areas of need, including substance abuse, crime and poverty.

Yvette White

As the mother of one son with Down syndrome and another with mental health issues, White said she was inspired by a social worker to enter the profession.

“When she came to my home, she focused on me, and it was very impactful,” White said.

“Social work is really advocating for people, connecting individuals with different services and just being there with empathy and compassion.”

White worked for an agency that advocated for people with developmental disabilities in Philadelphia for seven years before she entered college.

At MTSU, she interned with 100 Black Men of Nashville, the Tennessee Rehabilitation Center in Smyrna and a Nashville facility that helps prostitutes turn their lives around.

White says she will take a licensure exam in October. She then would like to find a job working at a drug and alcohol abuse rehabilitation clinic.

Her prospects are bright. According to the Tennessee Department of Labor, mental health and substance abuse social workers are one of the two hottest careers in the state requiring a master’s degree.

For more information, contact the MTSU Department of Social Work at 615-898-2868 or Dr. Ann Callahan, associate professor and master’s degree program coordinator, at 615-898-2477 or

— Gina K. Logue (